FreeCharge

Online recharge and couponing service FreeCharge has raised $80 million in funding from San Francisco-based hedge fund Valiant Capital Management and Hong Kong-based hedge fund Tybourne Capital Management, with participation from existing investors Sequoia Capital, RuNet and Sofina, reports The Economic Times.

FreeCharge CEO Alok Goyal told the publication that the funds will be used for product expansion on mobile, hiring and marketing. He also mentioned that FreeCharge will shift its focus from expanding internationally to focus specifically on India.

The company had raised $33 million from Sequoia Capital, Sofina and RuNet in September last year, to build up its advertising platform and allow brands to target users based on their online and offline purchases. Previously, FreeCharge had raised Rs 20 crore from Sequoia in 2012 following a seed investment by the company in 2011.

Last year in August, FreeCharge had acquired the offline app store Preburn, following which the Preburn team joined FreeCharge. This was similar to how Mumbai-based social wishlist site Wishberg shut down its operations, and founders Pravin Jadhav and Kulin Shah moved to FreeCharge, in July.

Late last year, FreeCharge had claimed that its Android app had crossed 5 million downloads on Google Play Store. It also noted that over 80% of its transactions are happening on its mobile apps and it has selectively started rolling out a new & improved app for its Android users.

Nikhil adds: What is FreeCharge? If FreeCharge is a recharge game, then it is playing on very thin margins (telcos give between 1-3%, we hear), and it will be difficult for the company to justify this kind of funding. One line of thought is that it is a marketing company, and the recharge business is a means of customer acquisition, and monetization for FreeCharge largely comes via couponing. If that is the case, then it competes with the likes of Cashkaro and CouponDunia*. As one industry exec pointed out to me (I forget whom), if FreeCharge is a marketing business, does the cost of consumer acquisition via recharges (and marketing overheads) really justify the income from couponing? The cost of consumer acquisition is much lower for other sites. Maybe FreeCharge isn’t a marketing business.  What is it?

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*Disclaimer: Times Internet, which acquired CouponDunia last year, is an advertiser with us.